Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, September 26, 2008
      ( 9/26/2008 05:04:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"BE CAREFUL, MRS. SMITH - HE'S NOT THE MAN YOU MARRIED!" My wife, sweet and tolerant person that she is, has been known to slip a few entries onto the DVR menu that she thinks I might enjoy: since she's more of a teevee menu cruiser than me, she often comes across items on the late-nite scheduled that would otherwise slip my attention. As an example of this, she recently recorded a showing of the movie Fido off the Sundance Channel. It's a Canadian zombie comedy, so she just knew it'd suit my debased tastes.

Set in a campily colorful proto-Eisenhower small town, Fido posits a world that's been created after the Romero-esque Zombie Wars. (The movie even opens with an elementary school film using back-&-white images of flesh-eating ghouls that are meant to recall the original Night of the Living Dead.) Thanks to the creation of an electronic device called the Domestication Collar, middle-class families are able to have their own tame zombie as a servant, companion or pet. You can already predict the comic metaphorical possibilities, and director Andrew Currie barely misses a one.

The movie follows a Donna Reed-y family named the Robinsons, who've just purchased their first zombie. Nervous Dad Robinson (Dylan Baker) is none too thrilled by the thought of a domesticated people chomper in the home, but both his pregnant wife (Carrie-Ann Moss) and son Timmy (K'Sun Ray) grow attached to the creature (a barely recognizable Billy Connolly), naming it Fido.

Fido's big joke, of course, rests in its characters' relentless attempts at maintaining a fa├žade of hyper-normalcy in a world where the dead keep rising to take a bite out of the living. The foremost player in this ongoing struggle is a corporation named Zomcom, which manufactures the electronic collars and also maintains the fences surrounding each town. "A Better Life Through Containment" is the company's motto, though we know at one point that the fence is gonna be breached - sure as we know that Fido's collar will at some point fail and that Helen Robinson will also inevitably get to ask Fido: "What's the matter? Is Timmy in trouble?"

As a "zomcom," Fido inevitably has its share of good gory moments, though at no time watching it do you feel any serious concern for the safety of its main characters. Dad, we know, is doomed, but since he's by and large a mentally absent parent, we're not really bothered by this. As directed by co-writer Andrew Currie, the whole flick has a lighthearted eighties vibe in the way it feels like a Midnight Movie without actually being one. There are even some agreeable necrophilia jokes embodied by a cheerfully pervy neighbor (Tim Blake-Nelson) who keeps a nubile domesticated zombie under the collar and by the occasional wistful glances Mom Robinson aims towards her family zombie. If some of Fido's jokes fall flat, well, that's a part of the Midnight Movie thing, too.

Not a great flick - or even the best zombie comedy ever made (not when you have Zombies on Broadway to consider, right?) - but I'm glad my loving spouse found it for me. If I ever come back as a flesh-eating zombie, babe, I promise not to eat ya . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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